Truth be told, I’m really not quite sure why I am still here today despite being quite masterful at sabotaging my life. I often reflect on this very topic. I think about my life, my brain, my addiction, my overall ability (or lack thereof) to cope. I picture how it must have gone down when God handed out the life manuals. I must have been out getting an ice cream cone or got sidetracked by a shiny object in my peripheral vision. I didn’t get the manual. I missed the line, got in the wrong line or something. My parents tried so hard to mold me into a reputable human being, but my mind was too broken from the beginning and with my manual missing, I was a beautiful disaster just waiting to happen.
Unfortunately I understand why people take their own lives. I, too, have stood on the brink of the proverbial life and death edge, tempting fate, testing my own will, wondering if I needed anymore of those pills to make it all better. Wondering if I could cut deep enough, trying to sign that note I had penned that was stained with tears.
Ultimately, however, I am a huge advocate for healing. When I hear a story about a suicide, I feel so many emotions. I see people posting things on social media, berating the person who took the final plunge. I hear the banter and arguments and explanations of people relating. It’s super easy to judge someone when you have never had their brain chemicals bouncing around in your own brain. It’s easy to judge when one walks in his own comfortable shoes, but doesn’t know the rocks that got inside of his fellow human being’s shoes from the giant holes that grew so large over time. No one knew the pain this human being was feeling.
I consider myself a survivor on many planes. All of those times that I closely contemplated if I wanted to breathe for another moment or if I could really do the life thing without the original manual, flash in front of me on a daily basis. It only takes a moment to have another brush of uncertainty, where the feelings do not go away quickly enough or the world has not aligned itself to heal my heavy heart.
I consider myself lucky in a way. I am no different from those who have chosen the end on their own watch. For some reason, some way, I have been able to find myself through the many zigzags of life. Making it through one life maze at a time with as much dignity and grace as possible. Why?
- My sister showed up and took me to the hospital in the right amount of time. Had she not picked up the phone and come to my lonely, insane apartment I may not have made it.
- AA and other recovery groups have provided me with the set of missing life directions that I needed to stay afloat in even the most difficult times.
- My family and friends, especially my little nieces and nephews. The thought of not being able to see them grow up was almost more painful than the life circumstances I was dealing with.
- Alcohol, in a weird way, saved me. What I mean is that, although this was a horrible way of coping and led me into a dark, dark place, sometimes I just drank until I passed out. I would eventually wake up, but I was still alive. I drank instead of other more final options. I’m not saying that I couldn’t have died in my sleep or gone into a blackout. There were plenty of those. I am just saying that hindsight is 20/20 and looking back this was one of the things that saved me.
- I couldn’t stop going to school. While Sallie Mae continues to haunt my life, I have to say that keeping myself in a steady stream of growth and exploration or throwing myself addictively into school, has definitely helped. Having several years worth of degrees, including a double Bachelor’s degree and two separate Master’s degrees… well this was my shiny object needed to distract myself from the darkest of times.
- Rehab and all that I learned there. This does not need much explaining really.
- My crazy brain just could not remain depressed. I would have episodes of hypomania which alternated with anxiety and then depression. This was a total mind screw, but the hypomania almost served as a way to help me climb out of the deep depression. When I would rise from the depths of despair I would churn out 10 paintings, write 8 poems and watch three seasons of the OC while baking brownies. It saved my ass.
- Music. It was a safe place I could go to romanticize any crazy thought, but do it safely for the most part. It helped me heal, build relationships with words and sound, soothed my aching heart. It helped me not feel so alone.
- Ice Cream saved me. Sometimes, once I quit all of the substances I was putting into my body, I binged on ice cream…a lot of it…This is very similar to how alcohol made it to this list. It may not be a healthy behavior, however, sometimes unhealthy ones are coping mechanisms that save the day for the moment you need them.
- Writing my heart out.
- Painting and creating. Sometimes I could not express myself because I did not know how to even put a label to what I was feeling, let alone why. Painting helped me in a way that nothing else could.
- Faith. I had faith. Even in the darkest of times where I just could not see any light, there seemed to be a glimmer of faith inside me. I wish I could explain how and why I was able to access this during my worst moments.
- I’m nosy and selfishly do not want to miss out on any potential better times ahead.
These reasons I have put are literally 13 of the primary pieces to my sanity puzzle. I’m not saying they are exclusive, but they count for something. I truly believe that I was put here to make some kind of difference in the world. In the wake of so many people, celebs and regular old Joe’s, giving up and ending their lives, I felt a twinge of self-reflection as I quickly reviewed the past 40 years of my life and how I had made it this far.
The other reason I have decided to write this blog entry is to create more awareness. The wheels are turning in my mind, amidst, my neurotransmitters that are so rapidly trying to share serotonin and spread the happiness factor in my brain. There has to be something that I can do to spread more awareness, take away the stigma and ultimately save people from themselves and the fear of going on that lives so comfortably inside of them. Since coming out of the closet, getting sober, and trading in my old, ratty shoes for a great pair of flip-flops so the rocks cannot get stuck, I am doing much better overall. I still see darkness at times though. The hopelessness can quickly come over me and course through my veins just like a drug without having to be injected. It is as if the drug already lives inside of me. I yearn to be an advocate for mental health awareness and suicide prevention. Even if this post creates controversy, I take this subject extremely seriously. I consider it a shot of serenity because writing about these things has helped to keep me alive.
As a quick reminder to those who either need help or have a loved one who may need help, check out this website as a resource and make a call:
It is always darkest before the dawn.